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Lab Work Makes For Easier Class Work

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Peter Kerwin
University Communications & Marketing

When Terry Feng graduates from Carnegie Mellon University in the spring, he hopes to find a job as a software engineer with a cutting-edge software development company. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t find value in the time he spent during his junior year on Lisa Porter’s(opens in new window) research team

Feng will graduate with a double major in materials science and engineering(opens in new window) and computer science(opens in new window). And he said his research experience gave him an edge in working with the tools and equipment he used in his materials science courses — particularly in using the scanning electron microscope to study material properties of the gallium oxide films he grew using various temperatures during the chemical vapor deposition process.

Gallium oxide is an emerging ultrawide bandgap semiconductor material that has potential uses in high-power and high-temperature devices. The research was conducted under the direction of Porter, a professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering(opens in new window) whose research is geared toward advanced electronic materials for future energy applications, semiconductor materials and devices for extreme environments, high efficiency electronics, and nanotechnology.

Porter invited students in her materials science course to apply for positions on her research team and selected Feng, who said the experience has also been beneficial in the work he is doing for this capstone course this year.

"My research experience showed me new ways to examine material properties, and leveraging these tools has allowed me to conduct a deeper analysis for the capstone," said Feng.

Feng’s group is investigating the effects of different surface treatments on 3D-printed aluminum parts that Boeing hopes to be able to adhere with epoxy bonds on the shop floor instead of having to send them out, which is the current method.

Porter said she typically has at least three or four undergraduate students working with her research team. She said they bring energy and enthusiasm to the group.

"By participating in research, they get professional experience meeting and interacting with others, and they get to see how complex the work is. They also get to see that research requires both planning and the unavoidable need to revise plans," explained Porter.

Many students, like Feng, also get the chance to present posters at symposiums, which helps them learn to talk about the research.

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